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How should sex education be taught in Islam/Islamically?

How should sex education be taught in Islam/Islamically?


Salaam Alykum. How should sex education be taught in Islam/Islamically? Thank you.

Wa alykum as-salaam,

It should be taught accurately, to ensure that people enjoy sex properly, safely, and positively. There is nothing that I can see in either The Qur’an or the Sunnah which would ever limit education of young people on the issue of sex. I have written about the Islamic stance towards sexuality, in general, here.

The reality is that the problem with sex education (in the US) is that, even outside of relative ineffectiveness of abstinence-only education (which is debated, but I don’t care), the opposite fails to teach beyond the idea that sex can lead to “STDs” or “pregnancy.” We do not teach the negative effect that pre-marital sex can have on individuals’ emotions, and while I don’t even want to touch how that effects women, I will say, it is underestimated in males to an egregious level.

Men are routinely applauded for their ability to “conquer” numerous women (which, in itself is a problematic discourse), again I’m not going to talk about women because I’m not one, but the damage this does to men is assumed to be non-existent. We assume that men are inclined to having relations with as many women as possible, which may be true in the male mind (i.e. in theory)but in reality the damage this does, emotionally, is something that is seldom discussed and assumed to be nonexistent.

I find this to be extremely problematic, regardless of my religious beliefs.

Islam does not demonize sex as Westerners imagine “religion” does, if anything, it encourages very healthy and positive attitudes to sex, but it underlines the centrality of marriage as a means towards protecting the individual (mainly the female), which was observed by Naomi Wolf, who writes:

The West interprets veiling as repression of women and suppression of their sexuality. But when I traveled in Muslim countries and was invited to join a discussion in women-only settings within Muslim homes, I learned that Muslim attitudes toward women’s appearance and sexuality are not rooted in repression, but in a strong sense of public versus private, of what is due to God and what is due to one’s husband. It is not that Islam suppresses sexuality, but that it embodies a strongly developed sense of its appropriate channeling – toward marriage, the bonds that sustain family life, and the attachment that secures a home.

Furthermore, the reality is that the “liberation” of sexuality has not exactly had its expected results, as noted feminist writer Germaine Greer writes:

“When the Female Eunuch was written our daughters were not cutting or starving themselves. On every side speechless women endure endless hardship, grief and pain, in a world system that creates billions of losers for every handful of winners.”

She goes on to write that “The sexuality that has been freed is male sexuality.” This is something I actually agree with, quite strongly.

Sexual “liberation” (if you want to call it that) harms women more than men, women are the ones left with the consequences of pregnancy, while men are unaffected, for example.

I think there is this illusion of “freedom” for women that has emerged, what has occurred has been a process of co-opting what is branded as “female liberation” to simply encourage, sanctify, and rationalize male desire through the supposed lens of “female empowerment.” Women’s perception of sexuality has not been formulated within their world, rather, it has been constructed within the male paradigm, which, as I noted earlier, is problematic to begin with.

I am not an expert on this issue, but I just wanted to raise a few issues on the basic assumptions of this discourse on “sex and religion.” Many times American Muslims take on the stances of religious conservatives (mainly Christian conservatives) in their dealings here, and add onto that cultural baggage, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Marriage is of central importance towards a healthy relationship, especially in the realm of sexuality, but to simplify the “ramifications” of sex to STDs and unwanted pregnancies, to me, is incomplete and not the true “alternative” to abstinence only education. When will we, as a society, not recognize that just because our teens are sexually mature (biologically) that does not mean they are ready to take on responsibility of marriage or sex, and so, until we are able to actually raise adults, we’re always going to have problems. I mean, Teen Mom is an actual TV show, where children (yes, they are children) are actually in charge of raising defenseless infants.

Muslims need to understand their responsibilities, this isn’t about “getting Nikkah done” so you can have sex “the Halal way” and then play house, it’s something to be taken seriously. We’re not raising adults, we’re raising big kids, and until we fix that issue, no amount of any education will benefit us, because at the end of the day, we are acting like children.

I want to be clear, marriage is of supreme importance, but even if someone is in the constructs of a marriage, but they are not actually adults about it, the damage will still be done whether in or out of marriage.

I pray this reaches you and your families in the best of health and Iman, insha Allah.

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